Obama Administration Clarifies Medical-Marijuana Stance -- Sort Of; Reaffirms Lack of Interest in Busting Patients, but Warns of Possible Consequences for Commercial Activity

Categories: Medical Weed

The Obama Administration has little interest in prosecuting medical-marijuana patients or their caregivers, states a letter by Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole.

The letter appears to be the awaited "clarification" by the Administration promised earlier this month by Attorney General Eric Holder. And, as we predicted last week, it's about as clear as bongwater.

In part, the letter states:

...it is likely not an efficient use of federal resources to focus enforcement efforts on individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen ... and their caregivers.



We'll link to the letter when the Department of Justice sends it out
officially; [UPDATE: -- See below for letter] meantime, we're pulling excerpts from an article published this evening in the Star-Ledger in New Jersey.

The paper reports that the letter also states:

There has, however, been an increase in the scope of commercial cultivation, sale, distribution, and use of marijuana for purported medical purposes,'' according to the letter. "For example, within the past 12 months, several jurisdictions have considered or enacted legislation to authorize multiple, large-scale, privately operated industrial marijuana cultivation centers. Some of these planned facilities have revenue projections of millions of dollars based on the planned cultivation of tens of thousands of cannabis plants.''

[The Ogden Memo] never intended to shield such activities from federal law enforcement and prosecution, even when these activities purport to comply with state law...


The article's opener says, "State medical marijuana programs and the people who work for them are not likely to run afoul of federal law if they keep their operations small and controlled..."

It doesn't look like Cole's new letter explicitly states that state workers have some sort of amnesty from federal prosecution. On the other hand, it doesn't state that Arizona Department of Health Services employees are at risk of getting busted, either. No doubt, Obama doesn't want to go down in history as the guy who put DHS Director Will Humble behind bars simply for going along with the wishes of Arizona voters.

It seems unlikely, though, that the clarification will convince Governor Jan Brewer and state Attorney General Tom Horne that they must withdraw their attack on the voter-approved Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. The state leaders filed a declaratory judgment in federal court last month after Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke's May 2 letter about Arizona's program, and they also directed the Department of Health Services to reject applications for marijuana dispensaries.

As New Times revealed earlier this month, Horne had discussed the possibility of filing a declaratory judgment during a January meeting with the new law's chief opponent, Carolyn Short of Keep AZ Drug Free.


UPDATE: Other news outlets, some with the copy of the Cole letter that government officials have yet to send us, are taking a less optimistic viewpoint than we did with this post:




Bloomberg News: Medical Marijuana Growers May Still Be Prosecuted, Justice Department Says

Reason Online:

Obama Administration Overrides 2009 Ogden Memo, Declares Open Season on Pot Shops in States Where Medical Marijuana Is Legal

the420Times.com: Obama Administration Backtracks From "Ogden Memo"

The latter link contains the full text of the Cole letter, so we'll cut and that paste that for you below. You can also click here for a copy of the actual letter, linked by www.drugsense.org.

(We'll just take a second to note another change we made to this blog post: Although the Star-Ledger reports that the Cole letter is addressed to every state's attorney general, the copy of the letter republished by these sites doesn't seem to be addressed that way. There is a cc to the Director of the Executive Office of United States Attorneys, so it seems as though every U.S. Attorney should get it.)

June 29, 2011

MEMORANDUM FOR UNITED STATES ATTORNEYS

FROM: James M. Cole Deputy Attorney General

SUBJECT: Guidance Regarding the Ogden Memo in Jurisdictions Seeking to Authorize Marijuana for Medical Use

Over the last several months some of you have requested the Department's assistance in responding to inquiries from State and local governments seeking guidance about the Department's position on enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in jurisdictions that have under consideration, or have implemented, legislation that would sanction and regulate the commercial cultivation and distribution of marijuana purportedly for medical use. Some of these jurisdictions have considered approving the cultivation of large quantities of marijuana, or broadening the regulation and taxation of the substance. You may have seen letters responding to these inquiries by several United States Attorneys. Those letters are entirely consistent with the October 2009 memorandum issued by Deputy Attorney General David Ogden to federal prosecutors in States that have enacted laws authorizing the medical use of marijuana (the "Ogden Memo").

The Department of Justice is committed to the enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act in all States. Congress has determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug and that the illegal distribution and sale of marijuana is a serious crime that provides a significant source of revenue to large scale criminal enterprises, gangs, and cartels. The Ogden Memorandum provides guidance to you in deploying your resources to enforce the CSA as part of the exercise of the broad discretion you are given to address federal criminal matters within your districts.

A number of states have enacted some form of legislation relating to the medical use of marijuana. Accordingly,the Ogden Memo reiterated to you that prosecution of significant traffickers of illegal drugs, including marijuana, remains a core priority, but advised that it is likely not an efficient use of federal resources to focus enforcement efforts on individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law, or their caregivers. The term "caregiver" as used in the memorandum meant just that: individuals providing care to individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses, not commercial operations cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana.

The Department's view of the efficient use of limited federal resources as articulated in the Ogden Memorandum has not changed. There has, however, been an increase in the scope of commercial cultivation, sale, distribution and use of marijuana for purported medical purposes. For example, within the past 12 months, several jurisdictions have considered or enacted legislation to authorize multiple large-scale, privately-operated industrial marijuana cultivation centers. Some of these planned facilities have revenue projections of millions of dollars based on the planned cultivation of tens of thousands of cannabis plants.

The Ogden Memorandum was never intended to shield such activities from federal enforcement action and prosecution, even where those activities purport to comply with state law. Persons who are in the business of cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana, and those who knowingly facilitate such activities, are in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, regardless of state law. Consistent with resource constraints and the discretion you may exercise in your district, such persons are subject to federal enforcement action, including potential prosecution. State laws or local ordinances are not a defense to civil or criminal enforcement of federal law with respect to such conduct, including enforcement of the CSA. Those who engage in transactions involving the proceeds of such activity may also be in violation of federal money laundering statutes and other federal financial laws.

The Department of Justice is tasked with enforcing existing federal criminal laws in all states, and enforcement of the CSA has long been and remains a core priority.

cc: Lanny A. Breuer Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division
B. Todd Jones United States Attorney District of Minnesota Chair, AGAC
Michele M. Leonhart Administrator Drug Enforcement Administration
H. Marshall Jarrett Director Executive Office for United States Attorneys
Kevin L. Perkins Assistant Director Criminal Investigative Division Federal Bureau of Investigations


This line seems to mean business: "Persons who are in the business of cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana, and those who knowingly facilitate such activities, are in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, regardless of state law."

To some extent, voters in Arizona already knew this when they approved Prop 203. But exactly who are those "who knowingly facilitate such activities?" Does Obama's legal enforcers mean Will Humble and his employees?

Another sentence seems to indicate that Arizona could have a robust medical marijuana program, if Governor Brewer supported it:

"Consistent with resource constraints and the discretion you may exercise in your district, such persons are subject to federal enforcement action, including potential prosecution."

That seems to indicate that the feds wouldn't necessarily target every dispensary, if dispensaries ever go online. Yes, the risk would still be present for dispensary owners and large-scale growers, but the risk would be minimized by the lack of federal resources to go after these people. And Burke, it seems, has the discretion to either support Arizona voters by not prosecuting the people who are simply carrying out what is now state law.

Governor Brewer could still decide to take a chance on Arizona voters instead of putting money on the resource-strapped feds.

My Voice Nation Help
50 comments
lzs
lzs

Born in Taiwan, a middle-class families, she had a habit of cutting cloth head wedding gown.The first job is to give foreign companies designing clotheswedding dresses, she was surprised to find beautiful bridesmaid dresses world production of almost all of Taiwan, while Taiwan was unable to find a famous brand.Soft evening dresses spot on the wedding she decided to dedicate themselves to the field of wedding design. 

Harry Wisencraker Jr.
Harry Wisencraker Jr.

Still going after people who might be faking just to get a buzz.  If a few of those cancer patients get in the way and get busted fuck'em.  They should never have contracted a painful disease in the first place...

charlie_oscar
charlie_oscar

Folks, Dennis Burke will not be in office much longer...  The "Fast & Furious" fiasco will catch up to him fast and furious!  The next death caused by one of his (authorized) .762 slugs will be curtains for him and even Holder might take a fall.  I expect DB will be in private practice defending med MJ patients, growers, gun and meth trafficers in the near future....The irony!

Walter Concrete
Walter Concrete

The majority of patients with prescriptions for pot don't know how to grow pot and they aren't interested in growing pot.   They don't know people that smoke pot or grow pot.   Do you think all these patients are just pot heads?    Most of them would never have smoked pot if this bill had not been passed.     Most of them have still never smoked pot.   The action by the almight fed has served one purpose only and it's not to bring down syndicate controlled marijuana.   Any organized crime groups want to control illegal substance availability.   That's what legal drugs would do....take crime out of the picture.    If it's regulated like alcohol then there is no involvement or control by crime groups.    Who's going to be giving away pot to patients?    No one.    It's a money maker.    This will benfit no one but the drug companies.

teknik1200
teknik1200

It just says no massive gardens. I'd rather not see dispensaries and would rather see the patient to patient small garden model we are currently seeing,

Yourproductsucks
Yourproductsucks

The Feds are not going to give you permission to break the law. That paranoid feeling you get after taking a hit? It's still legit.

seabourne
seabourne

It makes no sense at all that some states have medicinal use and others do not. The laws need to change at the federal level! How is it a democracy when one man, Lamar Smith, head of the House Judiciary can prevent the Bill from being heard? The nation needs to vote only for cannabis friendly candidates. Out with the old and in with the new. The time has come for the nation to stand together and demand change! VOTE! Sign petitions, be heard loud and clear. Medical Marijuana has become the new economy. The Republican rein and ruin of the nation must end.

Tell your Congressional Representatives -

It is time to "Change the Schedule of Cannabis, Cannabis Laws, and Drug Czar Laws"

Read and Sign the petition at

http://www.change.org/petition...

After you sign the petition, email your friendlies, share on facebook, or twitter from the petition page. If you have a website grab the widget so your visitors can sign it without leaving your website.

This petition uses laws passed by Congress to point out that by their laws, the laws must change.

xiaoka12
xiaoka12

Something unexpected surprise--

Hello. My friend

the good shopping place 

please input our website

=== h t t p  : //  w w w . b e t t e r w h o l e s a l e r .  c o m  / =====

YOU MUST NOT MISS IT!!!

thank you!!!

==== h t t p  : //  w w w  . b e t t e r w h o l e s a l e r . c o m /====

Believe you will love it.

==== h t t p :  //  w w w . j o r d a n f o r w o r l d  . c o m /====

Travisp
Travisp

Does anyone know what the law says about ordering seeds from other countrys?

LH
LH

Our civil liberties are down the sh*tter; Big Brother monitors, tracks and regulates every thing we do. You all should check out Ron Paul. Marijuana should be a State issue, as everything else should be as well. The Feds in size are as bloated as our budget deficit. Like someone previously said, I donated to Obama and got a lot of false hope from him. As Americans we are delusional to our government and its about time we stand up for ourselves.

J Curwen
J Curwen

Personally I think the Obama administration just lost big. They could have made a lot of friends among the medical cannabis community. Instead, they chose to slap our collective faces.

Last election I donated a lot of money to the Obama campaign. Unless they adopt a softer line on medical cannabis, I won't be donating again this cycle. That's what I told their phone solicitors already. Apparently they don't take us seriously. With election margins as thin as they have been, one would think they might. The anti-pot zealots are already in the other camp. You'd think they'd want our votes.

WhoKnows
WhoKnows

Pot should just be made legal.  Even Ron Paul was a co-author of a bill to do just that last week!

Michelle
Michelle

From the snippets you posted in your article it appears that dispensaries (non-profit or for profit) are dead in the water and will continue to be raided, investigated by the IRS and will never open in Arizona as long as the feds are calling the shots.  This is a big victory for the medical marijuana patients in our state since the collision and gaming of the system by the greedy syndicates almost brought our program to a screeching halt.  That will serve them right for trying to put the kabosh on the Grow Your Own Model.

Brianzentner1
Brianzentner1

Mr Stern:

I have been following your articles and want to know if you have heard what the Adult Probation Department's stance on Arizona's medical marijuana is? I know the various police departments for the most part agree with the law, but what about the probation officers?

Thank-you

Coz
Coz

You are totally a fucking moron.Hope you get cancer asshole.

Harry Wisencraker Jr.
Harry Wisencraker Jr.

In some states it's legal to grow with the MMJ card alone.  In those states you can request "Clones" from the distributor(s).  Up to 6 plants per patient, depending on the state.  What you don't use you call SELL BACK to the DISTRIBUTOR for a profit. 

Harry Wisencraker Jr.
Harry Wisencraker Jr.

What paranoid feeling would that be?  You must be one of them law enforcement BOYS that are so brainwashed they don't have a clue beyond what they are told by their lords and masters.

Mobilemarine
Mobilemarine

Put the bong down for a second...Repubs and dems are all the same, Ron Paul is the only on ethat has the balls to state his position on all of these issues.

teknik1200
teknik1200

11 more states and we rare half way there. We will see more and more states coming through and then there will be federal action. The import thing is to keep working for it. This is democracy in actions. It starts small and slowly gathers steam!

xyz
xyz

Its  against the law ,but order 10 or less  and they shouldnt waste their time trying to prosecute you. They might rip open pakage and confiscate and you get warning letter from customs.Not that Im reccomending that(LOL )

teknik1200
teknik1200

The only west Ron Paul would make it past the primaries would be ilf a buNch of democrats voted. I'm not sure how that guy can even be on the republican ticket but I don't see him having much of a chance to win the primary. If he could win the nod he probably has the best chance amongst independents to win. I would probably vote for Ron Paul, but he's the only one on the right I would vote for.

Justin Miller
Justin Miller

Yeah I am sure the phone solicitors passed that right along to him. 

Guest23
Guest23

So what is the alternative, this is similar to the gay marriage situation, Obama can't afford to lose the fence sitters who are moderately anti gay and anti mj... but it is better than the alternative which is electing a repub who will take a hardline stance against both. Obama is playing smart politics not that I like it but I can understand why. Obviously he supports these agendas, he just can't afford to politically say so.

WhoKnows
WhoKnows

No, you don't understand.  Congress would have to make pot legal.  The BEST that Obama can do without that is to be "non committal"

Fashiongirl
Fashiongirl

Although dispensaries may be kept from being built, the law does allow cargivers/cultivators to grow and harvest if they are not within 25 miles of a dispensary. Since there are no dispensaries yet, this allows every qualified caregiver to grow in their own home.

teknik1200
teknik1200

I agree. It sounds like good news to me. The state will get their cut from the annual cards and the patients can take care of each other in a manner that doesn't break the bank.

WhoKnows
WhoKnows

The actual woory would be Gilbert PD ,ad no one else.  They have been busting people in hopes of media attention, and getting none.

If these kind of busts had any kind of a PR op, don't you think Arpaio would have his puss on the news and be doing "sweeps" of smoke shops?

teknik1200
teknik1200

I just read of a case in Michigan like this. I involves a judge taking the stance that the person be denied their right to the medication which was prescribed to them.

Ray Stern
Ray Stern

Great question. When I find the answer, I'll do a post on it here in Valley Fever.

Harry Wisencraker Jr.
Harry Wisencraker Jr.

And as a final note, thank you for pointing out what was wrong with my post.. it did come across wrong and I will work hard to hone my sarcasm to the point of only offending those that truly deserve to be offended.  You got my thumbs up!  Sorry it took a month for me to get back too.

Harry Wisencraker Jr.
Harry Wisencraker Jr.

Sorry Coz, I think you misunderstood my point.  That was sarcasm, I VERY MUCH believe in the medical benefits of MMJ.  No I haven't had cancer but I do know many who do have cancer and I have seen their struggle trying to get the VOTER APPROVED MMJ cards, what some have paid and the fact that they still aren't getting relief.  and yes I am a total fucking moron at times, this isn't one of them!  And frankly if it was pretty much anybody but you COZ, I would have NOT posted an apology.

Billy Jack
Billy Jack

theyve been hacked a bunch of times and credit card info of customers was stolen and used.the most recent hack was a customer database list they keep with emails and address and purchase orders.

teknik1200
teknik1200

Yup if the wrong person from the right gets in, one of the religious nuts like Bachmann I wud think mjj would be in trouble. But if one of the more libratarian folks like. Ron Paul would make it in mmj would be in good shape. The right is too factioned right now you don't know what stance the politicians will take, but most will. Be anti because god told them so.

Asteve
Asteve

And where exactly did Congress get the authority to make it ILLEGAL?

Harry Wisencraker Jr.
Harry Wisencraker Jr.

And frankly COZ, it's not just MMJ enforcement that I see as the problem.  It's the ENTIRE WAR ON DRUGS and the way it's carried out that I take issue with.

chatenpatel54
chatenpatel54

try http:///www.cannabis-seeds.co.uk - they are 100% discreet, reliable and secure.

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...